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Fear Factor: Scientists Discover a Way to Remove Fear From the Brain

Nov 28, 2016 04:27 AM EST
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Scientists from the University of Cambridge embarked on an experiment that aims to condition the brain to do away with fear.
(Photo : Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Being afraid of certain things and situations is a normal part of life. Often, people are scared of spiders, snakes and dogs. There are people who cannot stand even the idea of being in the same room as clowns. Still there are others who cannot stand being in enclosed spaces or would prefer to go on a road trip than take a plane. 

Most have coping mechanisms that help them settle their fears should a circumstance present itself. Unfortunately, there are some who are completely incapacitated by their phobias. For the unlucky few, a recently published study might be the solution to their long-standing problem.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge embarked on an experiment that aims to condition the brain to do away with fear. In order to facilitate the study, the researchers introduced a specific fear memory by administering electric shock whenever they see an image. After awhile, they informed the participants that there would be a monetary reward based on their brain activity. The team conducted the experiment over the next three days.

The results show that the brain activity that used to be associated with pain and fear has been replaced with something positive following the introduction of the monetary reward.

Dr. Ben Seymour, one of the authors of the study, explains that their research can greatly benefit people who are suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder or extreme phobias. He however clarifies that more research with a bigger sample size is needed in order to make this treatment viable.

"To apply this to patients, we need to build a library of the brain information codes for the various things that people might have a pathological fear of, say, spiders. Then, in principle, patients could have regular sessions of Decoded Neurofeedback to gradually remove the fear response these memories trigger" quipped Seymour as reported by Science Daily.

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